“Great treasures often come in small packages” • Stephanie Hudak, Guest Columnist
OK, so in my last column I told you that books are always at the top of my gift-giving and receiving list. Last week a fellow Madisonian, Pete Berrall, gave me a book that his mother had written– one of many, by the way. It’s a small book, only about 100 pages, and the title isn’t one that would have made me even pick it up. But, what surprises were inside!
This little gem is titled Early American Garden Bouquets and was written by Julia Smith Berrall, a native of Montclair, N.J., who passed away at 91, but who left behind a legacy of garden books and a wealth of knowledge about garden history. Mrs. Berrall was an accomplished gardener, historian and tour guide for European gardens; and was also an eloquent writer, which is the point of this story.
This book is the perfect gift for just about anyone. For the garden historian there is information about how the early gardens were created; for the plant enthusiast there is detailed information about plants used during the 1600-1900 timeframe (common and botanical names); for the floral arrangers there are beautiful color photos of exceptional arrangements done by Mrs. Berrall, using historically correct plants; and for the collector of antiques there is information and photos of floral containers used during that period.
But, as a writer, I was thrilled to read something that was so eloquently and lyrically written. If you just want to learn how to write grammatically correct and fluidly, this book is the Reader’s Digest version of the Chicago Manual of Style.
The back of the book holds even more information. The appendix lists plants that were grown for both arrangements and medicinal uses; native and naturalized plants; and the bibliography has many books that garden historians could seek out. And that reminds me to tell you about a couple other books that Mrs. Berrall wrote; they are already on my Christmas wish list: The Garden: An Illustrated History and A History of Flower Arrangement. Both of these I found on Amazon’s used book section so they will even be a bargain.
But the book we are talking about is readily available right here in Madison at the Madison Tea Room and Garden. Now how great is that. You can buy the book, have tea and enjoy the garden. To end this story I need to tell you that this book was published by Pete and his brother posthumously. It was his mother’s last request that it reach the public. What a beautiful way to memorialize a woman whose life was dedicated to gardens and their history.
(Just finished the giant containers by Town Park and Madison Drugs. Follow my blog to learn what plants I used: madisoncontainers.blogspot.com)
Printed in the December 6, 2012 edition